Tag: Gratitude

Brave Means Taking The Very Next Step

We think brave is shown in a big defining moment. But what if brave is something more humble? Sometimes its easiest to muster all our brave for the big earth shattering blow, but its the days that follow that sometimes take the greatest courage.

Putting on that cap and gown, saying “I do”,  getting the first glimpse of your baby’s face…these are the milestones that forever change the fabric of our lives, but its the ordinary days, after days, that layer together to build a lifetime..

As a teenager with social anxiety, my family was so proud that I had the bravery to go out on a stage and perform as Dorothy in Wizard of Oz. But the crowded auditorium and staring eyes were white washed under the bright lights as adrenaline propelled me forward through my choreography. What I couldn’t form words to explain to my parents is that it took more bravery some mornings to walk through the double glass doors of my school, day after day to the overwhelming buzz of small talk and what felt like critical stares.

Sometimes the initial blow overtakes us in a consuming wave that leaves us disoriented and underwater. Bravery comes as easily as swimming to the surface and finding air. But once we find our bearings, as we stand and begin walking to the waters edge, its the wave after wave that slowly wears us down and steals our strength.

Maybe brave isn’t withstanding the waves but finding the strength to get back up and take the next step. Maybe brave is getting out of bed when depression covers you like a thick blanket. Maybe brave is staring at your precious daughter, her face covered in an angry red rash and smiling past the tears that threaten, to tell her, “darling, you’re beautiful.” Brave is your 15th round of chemo, bringing your dad lunch as he recovers from brain surgery at the hospital, or making coffee and taking a shower two days after you kissed your wife goodbye after her final breath. Brave is raising your daughters, working a job, and supporting your husband while secretly battling the aches of a chronic pain. Brave is the wife beside her husband’s hospital bed after a year long fight with a disease that no one has heard of. Brave is having Christmas in a makeshift apartment as you rebuild your home that was lost. Brave is forgiving the husband that cheated. Brave is facing cancer for the third time and still fighting with all you’ve got.

Maybe brave isn’t dressed in the clanking armor of Saul, but the regular human flesh of you and me, filled full of an unshakeable God-sized hope. Brave doesn’t mean we have to be bigger than the giants that we battle, or the storms that we face; brave isn’t as strong as lions, or hate; as powerful as death. No. Brave is knowing WHO IS. 

Brave faces an uncertain future and grasps on to an unshakeable hope.

My dear brave friends– with shaking legs and outstretched arms I lift you up in fragile prayers, to the One who will hold our hearts and makes us brave.

What I Want This Christmas

Its the final sprint to Christmas and I’m standing at the crossroads of anticipation and sadness. I love the festivity that Christmas brings. It brings people together in joined anticipation. It gives us a reason to wear pretty clothes, and string up lights, and hang wreaths. Our hearts beat a little faster at Christmas in preparation and excitement. 

But what happens the day after Christmas when the paper is torn and the shopping malls rush to disassemble it all? Its a day we don’t discuss in the days leading to Christmas, a day we put up on a shelf to face when we must, when we’re forced to look at our weight on the scale and long list of to do’s reserved for “once Christmas is over,” once again.

But before you think I’m a total Christmas buzz kill I’m getting at something, I promise.

I’ve heard about Christmas wishes of the different children in my life. Bree wants a unicorn, Hannah wants a bike, Ava wants an IPhone. I have my own little list of the things I’ll shop for at the after-Christmas sales. Then I think of the famous song by Amy Grant, “My Grown-Up Christmas List.” I would love for those hopes to be fulfilled too. Things like “no more lives torn apart, that wars would never start, that time would heal all hearts.” Yes please to all three. But as grown ups we know that we live in a world that will always be a bitter blend of beautiful and ugly–that on this side of Heaven, restoration comes in the dark corners and broken bits of life.

So I sit here looking at the twinkle of my tree, and a glimmer of hope in my children’s eyes. My heart is full of hope, and love, and faith, and yet a deep ache for something more. Something more that I’ll have to face on the other side of Christmas, but is hushed to sleep with sugar, and wine, and pretty paper.

It challenges me to ask how I can take the bright hope of Christmas into the days that follow. It challenges me to think of the things that I can unwrap on the 26th, 27th, the 30th, and January, February, July, and the long dark days that scatter between.

So, this is my Christmas list:

  1. Laughter Every Day– Even if its laughing at this mess of life, I want to find a reason to laugh every day: kid’s belly laughs,  laughs that cramp my stomach and escape in tears at the corner of my eyes. I wish for bowls and bowls of laughter.
  2. Heart to Heart Conversation– The kind of talk that makes me feel seen, the beautiful mess I am. I wish that this year I see more people holding out their hearts so I can cradle them–more people that know me enough to love me through all my aches and victories. More time with the people that already do.
  3. Inspiration– Whether its books or poems, center pieces, or paintings I want my life to spill creativity, and the hope that it blooms.
  4. Song– I’m learning that music lifts my mood and inspires my words. I want to remember that even on the days that feel too somber for song, that I need to turn it on, and let the hope crack open my heart.
  5. Ordinary Grace– I don’t just want the holy grace that I experience in the words of forgiveness from a pastor. I want to share and experience the reckless grace from loving wildly. I want my kids to learn grace as a life, and not just a precious word between the pages of scripture.
  6. Messes and Face Time– I want to abandon my chores to read my kids books, to cook impromptu muffins, or to leave my house in a moments notice to sit and listen to a friend in crisis.
  7. Lovely Contradiction– Too much of my life I’ve wanted to organize things in a way I can understand them. This makes me the ultimate judge and curator of life. I’m learning people are a knot of complication and nuance. That I’m not called to understand or approve but to love and be love to a world that doesn’t have enough.

Blessings Always Come with Responsibility

“Every good and perfect gift is from above…” James 1:17

Blessings always come with responsibilities. The greater the blessing, the greater the responsibility. When I was a kid, if my pockets were full of a few quarters and a couple cubes of bubble gum, then I felt blessed and other kids felt jealous. But when I got my first car, I quickly learned that cars don’t run on quarters and bubble gum. The blessing of a car meant the hard work of babysitting and odd jobs to earn enough money to fill the gas tank.

When I became a mom, the blessing of my daughter came also with the heavy weight of responsibility. Not only do I receive the pure joy and pride of being a mother to my gorgeous, stubborn, and independent little girl, but every time I look at her, I’m reminded of the great calling God has put on my life to care for her, to teach her, and to love her, even when that means the tough kind of love.

A person can respond to responsibility in a few different ways. We can resist it or even grow to resent the extra work that comes with responsibility. We can become a slave to it, allowing the responsibilities to run our life and become an obsession. Or, we can embrace it and lean on God to strengthen us in fulfilling our responsibilities.  When we remember the blessings that are attached to the extra work, it’s easy to see that it’s worthwhile, but our perspective can determine  whether we treat our blessings as gifts or burdens.

When we think of the James verse, it’s easy to think that a perfect gift means something that is lovely, flawless, and uncomplicated, like quarters and bubble gum, but in life we quickly learn that the most perfect gifts come with responsibility and sacrifice. We can choose to embrace God’s gifts and draw closer to him, or miss an opportunity for God to touch our hearts and lives with His call to greater responsibility and trust.